Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division
from the Circuit Court of Cole County, Missouri The Honorable
Daniel R. Green, Judge.
Before: Mark D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge, and Lisa White
Hardwick and Edward R. Ardini, Jr., Judges.
D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge.
Kelly Wideman appeals from the "Judgment of the Full
Order of Protection-Adult" entered in favor of
by the Circuit Court of Cole County, Missouri ("trial
court"). We affirm.
and Procedural Background
and Mr. Wideman were previously in a romantic or intimate
relationship and had resided together. The relationship was
tumultuous, including what C.R. described as physically and
verbally abusive conduct by Mr. Wideman toward her,
eventually leading to C.R.'s decision to end the
relationship in 2015.
C.R. felt physically threatened, harassed, and stalked by Mr.
Wideman's conduct. Thus, she filed a petition seeking an
order of protection against Mr. Wideman. On February 24,
2016, the trial court issued an ex parte order of protection.
The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing on March 3,
2016, where the parties appeared pro se and
testified. The trial court entered a judgment on March 3,
2016, in which a full order of protection, effective until
March 3, 2017, was issued in favor of C.R. against Mr.
Wideman hired counsel, who promptly filed a motion seeking to
set aside the judgment; reopen the evidence to take
additional evidence that Mr. Wideman wished to present; and
reconsider the entry of the full order of protection. The
circuit court granted the requested relief, conducting
another evidentiary hearing on April 25, 2016, and setting
aside the March 3, 2016 full order of protection. The trial
court took the petition for full order of protection under
advisement. The trial court also ordered that the ex parte
order remain in effect pending the court's final ruling
on the full order. Thereafter, the trial court issued its
judgment on December 1, 2016, granting a full order of
protection in favor of C.R. and against Mr. Wideman. The
terms of the judgment expressly noted that the full order of
protection would expire on May 1, 2017.
Wideman appealed, arguing that the judgment was against the
weight of the evidence and in excess of the trial court's
first note that the trial court's judgment specifically
denotes that the full order of protection will expire on May
1, 2017. Hence, the full order of protection in question
expired during the pendency of Mr. Wideman's appeal and
prior to its submission to this Court on appeal.
an appellate court does not decide moot issues."
C.I.A. v. T.E., 423 S.W.3d 844, 845 (Mo. App. W.D.
2014). "Whether a case is moot is a legal question that
the appellate court raises sua sponte on
appeal." Id. "When a full order of
protection has expired, any appeal of that order is moot,
because there is no practical effect in vacating an order
that has expired." Hail v. Hail, 380 S.W.3d
655, 656 (Mo. App. W.D. 2012) (internal quotation omitted).
an appellate court "may consider the appeal if it raises
a recurring issue of general public interest and importance
and would otherwise evade appellate review."
Id. (internal quotation omitted). And, in the
context of an appeal from a full order of protection, this
exception to the mootness doctrine is addressed by section
455.007, RSMo 2016:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary,
the public interest exception to the mootness doctrine shall
apply to an appeal of a full order of protection which has
there is no other provision of law to the contrary, we
"shall" apply the public interest exception to the
mootness doctrine to the trial court's judgment granting
a full order of protection, and we will evaluate the
substantive merit of Mr. Wideman's appeal.
appeal of a bench-tried case, the trial court's judgment
will be affirmed unless there is no substantial evidence to
support it, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it
erroneously declares or applies the law." Sauvain v.
Acceptance Indem. Ins. Co., 437 S.W.3d 296, 302 (Mo.
App. W.D. 2014). A challenge to the weight of the evidence
"presupposes that there is sufficient evidence to
support the judgment, " but examines the probative value
of that evidence to induce belief. Ivie v. Smith,
439 S.W.3d 189, 205-06 (Mo. banc 2014). "In other words,
'weight of the evidence' denotes an appellate test of
how much persuasive value evidence has, not just whether
sufficient evidence exists that tends to prove a necessary
fact." Id. at 206. "When the evidence
poses two reasonable but different conclusions, appellate
courts must defer to the [trial] court's assessment of
that evidence." Id. We will overturn a trial
court's judgment only in rare cases where we have a firm
belief that the judgment is wrong, and only when the trial
court "could not have reasonably found, from the record
at trial, the existence of a fact that is necessary to
sustain the judgment." Id. See also Sauvain,
437 S.W.3d at 302.
reviewing the record in an against-the-weight-of-the-evidence
challenge, we defer to the trial court's factual findings
"when the factual issues are contested and when the
facts as found by the [trial] court depend on credibility
determinations." Ivie, 439 S.W.3d at 206. We
defer to the trial court's credibility determinations
"because the [trial] court is in a better position to
weigh the contested and conflicting evidence in the context
of the whole case, " including weighing the demeanor,
sincerity, and character of witnesses. Id.
"Accordingly, we review the evidence in a light most
favorable to the judgment, accept the evidence favorable to
the judgment as true, and disregard any contradictory
evidence." Sauvain, 437 S.W.3d at 303.
"All fact issues upon which no specific findings are
made shall be considered as having been found in accordance
with the result reached." Rule 73.01(c).
reviewing the record below, we are cognizant of, and defer
to, the trial court's superior ability to evaluate the
issues by the testimony and demeanor of the witnesses."
McAlister v. Strohmeyer, 395 S.W.3d 546, 550 (Mo.
App. W.D. 2013) (internal quotation omitted). "Because
the trial judge is in the best position to gauge the
credibility of the witnesses, in cases under the Adult Abuse
Act, the discretion of the trial ...